American folk music legend Pete Seeger yesterday officially joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign – an international movement to pressure and sanction Israel through economic means.
Seeger, 92, one of the fathers of American folk music, is a veteran political and peace activist. In the 1950s he was interrogated by the McCarthyist House Unamerican Activities Committee and two years ago performed for U.S. President Barack Obama’s inauguration concert.
Seeger has been labelled many things over the years, but after doing a google search, it doesn’t appear anyone has yet called him an anti-Semite. That will soon change.
Those defending the increasingly racist and eliminationist Israeli government, in the face of a tidal wave of revolutions by young people who are aware that the U.S. and Israel have helped suppress their countries’ search for true democracy, as it comes crashing down, will attack Seeger tomorrow. And the next day. But his joining the ranks of people opposed to Israeli apartheid will probably shake the performing arts community more than the defections of such luminaries as his friends Theodore Bikel or Gil Scott-Heron.
Monday, Adam Horowitz covered Seeger’s change of opinion on this matter:
During a January meeting at his Beacon, NY home with representatives from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) and Adalah-NY, Pete Seeger explained, “I appeared on that virtual rally because for many years I’ve felt that people should talk with people they disagree with. But it ended up looking like I supported the Jewish National Fund. I misunderstood the leaders of the Arava Institute because I didn’t realize to what degree the Jewish National Fund was supporting Arava. Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can.”
Jeff Halper, the Coordinator of ICAHD, added, “Pete did extensive research on this. He read historical and current material and spoke to neighbors, friends, and three rabbis before making his decision to support the boycott movement against Israel.” Seeger has for some time given some of the royalties from his famous Bible-based song from the 1960s, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” to ICAHD for their work in rebuilding demolished homes and exposing Israel’s practice of pushing Palestinians in Israel off their land in favor of development of Jewish villages and cities.
The November virtual rally “With Earth and Each Other” was billed as an apolitical effort to bring Israelis and Palestinians together to work for the environment. Dave Lippman from Adalah-NY noted, “Arava’s online event obfuscated basic facts about Israel’s occupation and systematic seizure of land and water from Palestinians. Arava’s partner and funder, the JNF, is notorious for planting forests to hide Palestinian villages demolished by Israel in order to seize their land. Arava was revealed as a sterling practitioner of Israeli government efforts to ‘Rebrand Israel’ through greenwashing and the arts.”
Regarding Seeger’s friend Bikel, Horowitz adds:
Pete Seeger’s long-time colleague Theodore Bikel, an Israeli-American known for his life-long involvement with Israeli culture, recently supported the Israeli artists who have refused to perform in a new concert hall in Ariel, a large illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
Is that such a strange dream??
Update – Tuesday 1:30 pm PST: Late Monday, when I wrote this post, there wasn’t much on the web about Seeger’s decision, except for the Haaretz article quoted at the top, and Adam Horowitz’s background post at Mondoweiss. Now the Jewish Telegraph Agency has published a short article, and JPost a more extended one, with comments attached. Here are selected comments:
Very nice Pete…now it not only LOOKS like you support the people who started 3 wars with the intention of destroying the State of Israel…now we know it’s a fact…
I put all the LP’s and CD’s into “little boxes” and “turned, turned” them into the landfill where they belong.
Wherever he shows his ugly face, people should protest. I will be glad to do so. He deserves no less for his support of terrorism.
The man is a male “Jane Fonda” without the looks . No surprises there and who gives damn about him anyway. He is just another anti Viet war “has been”